Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Dragon Age 3 musings

Whilst I really like RPGs, there haven’t been that many I’ve either bought or wanted to buy recently. Final Fantasy seems to have decided maximum linearity is what people want, and I’m somewhat loathe to join even a good series (Mass Effect) halfway through, because the first game wasn’t released for the PS3.

That leaves the Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age.

I loved Origins, despite its flaws (notably freezing, although, as per Skyrim, this can be greatly reduced by turning off auto-save). The cast of characters were strong, their little interactions were enjoyable, the Warden’s relationship with each of them could develop in differing ways and I liked the combat. Dragon Age’s lore and world are also big plus points for me. The various nations of Tevinter, Orlais, Antiva and so on sound fascinating, and the Qunari make a nice addition to the classic troika of men, elves and dwarves.

However, Dragon Age 2 was a missed opportunity. The Qunari broke tradition and actually worked better with some retconning, but the party members and segmented plot didn’t hang together as well as in Origins. Worst of all, the game was clearly rushed, forcing the makers to copy and paste dungeons repeatedly.

Others have been less charitable than me, and rate the game as poor or mediocre.

So, what do we know of Dragon Age 3? Not much, but that in itself is a good thing. I think I’m right in saying that if it had been released as quickly as 2 then it would already be out by now. I’m hoping this means the team behind it will be given the time necessary to do justice to Origins and improve on 2.

The game will be influenced by Skyrim’s open world approach, according to Bioware’s CEO Ray Muzyka. This would mark a huge, and welcome, departure from DA2, which occurred in one city, and Origins, which had a wider geographical range but still operated in discrete locations.

It also seems that the game will take place over a much wider area than Origins, which occurred in the somewhat English Ferelden. So, we might get to visit multiple countries, and I hope we get to see Par Vollen and Tevinter, amongst other places.

Then there’s the party. Individual members of DA2 were fine, I liked Isabela and most of the others (except Anders, the miserable bugger) but they didn’t really seem to be a team. In Origins the party was excellent and the strong driving force of the Archdemon added a sense of purpose and unity. It’s likely that the two significant characters we see at the end of DA2 will be back, and I certainly hope they join the party. It’d also be nice to get a female Qunari on board. I think a Mabari could work, but it would need to be more developed than the one that featured in Origins.

In terms of plot, we know the bare bones already. Chantry falling to bits, mages and templars at war and it’s highly probably the protagonist will be tasked with unifying the chantry once more, or at least ending the war. As long as the execution is fine, it should work well.

I don’t buy that many games, but when I do I like to play them almost to death (I’m still playing Skyrim) and I hope that DA3 can cut out the freezing and return to a more Origins style of storytelling.


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